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Annapolis agenda 1997

January 07, 1997

Can Maryland lawmakers keep all the governor's promises and work in a tax cut too? That's the question that will rock the General Assembly in 1997.

After two years of saying a tax cut was unaffordable, Gov. Parris Glendening is yielding to economic advisors and critics from both parties. Finally, all agree that while Maryland's overall tax burden is not unbearable, an income tax cut will go a long way toward making the state more attractive to new industries.

But funding it won't be so easy. The governor's proposal to pay for it by doubling the cigarette tax is opposed by Senate President Mike Miller. And if the governor's other anti-smoking initiatives are effective, the tobacco tax take will fall short of projections.

We favor a look at House Speaker Cas Taylor's proposal to broaden the state's sales tax to include services not now taxed, like legal services. However, because Washington County is so close to other states, we'd like an analysis of how such a change would affect local business. A tax cut won't do local citizens any good if the sales levy needed to pay for it chases business into Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

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But let's face it, after the Schaefer years, when the state was more renowned for the antics of its chief executive than for its business-friendly climate, Maryland needs to make a statement that demonstrates that its government is listening (and acting to accommodate) the companies that can bring jobs to Maryland.

The tax cut is a first step, but lawmakers also need to consider proposals like the one to certify federal environmental standards as "tough enough" for Maryland and so-called "brownfield" legislation that would limit the liability of companies that agree to reuse formerly contaminated industrial sites.

State officials do not have to gut the laws protecting its air, soil and water to attract new business and encourage existing firms to expand. They do have to demonstrate that they recognize that compliance costs money, and that unless the costs of doing business here are reasonable (and predictable) business and jobs will go elsewhere.

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